Jack Caulfield, a former New York City police detective who...

Jack Caulfield, a former New York City police detective who died in Vero Beach, Fla., at 83, was once a master of dirty tricks for the Nixon White House who had his biggest brush with history in the role of a messenger. Credit: Handout

John Caulfield, a security operative who was responsible for wiretaps and other so-called "dirty tricks" of the Nixon White House, and who offered executive clemency to a convicted Watergate burglar, died June 17 in Vero Beach, Fla. He was 83.

A funeral home in Vero Beach confirmed his death, but the cause could not be learned.

Caulfield, who was often known as Jack, was a burly onetime New York City police officer who entered the orbit of Richard Nixon as a chief of security during the 1968 presidential campaign. After Nixon was elected, Caulfield assumed a vaguely defined role as a White House staff assistant, with responsibilities that ranged from bodyguard to collector of intelligence.

He was linked to several operations that skirted beyond the edge of legality, including wiretapping, pressure on the Internal Revenue Service and the planned bombing of a Washington think tank. But Caulfield was best known as the White House official who extended an offer of clemency, cash and future employment to James McCord if McCord, a convicted Watergate burglar, refused to testify against members of Nixon's inner circle.

McCord revealed Caulfield's offer at a Senate Watergate hearing in May 1973. It was the first evidence that appeared to link Nixon directly with the Watergate burglary and the subsequent cover-up.

McCord said Caulfield invoked the president's name while making the offer during a meeting in January 1973 at an overlook on the George Washington Parkway. In testimony to the Senate committee, Caulfield said Nixon "probably did know" that McCord had been offered clemency in return for his silence.

Later, Caulfield said he believed the scheme came from his onetime boss, White House counsel John Dean, and that Nixon may not have authorized it.

"I know when wrongdoing is occurring," Caulfield said in 1973, under questioning from Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.). "I have indicated here that I knew that the offer of executive clemency in this matter was wrong, yes sir, I knew that. But what I am saying to you, sir, is that my loyalties, especially to the president of the United States, overrided those considerations."

Caulfield left the White House several months before the Watergate break-in occurred in June 1972 and was never prosecuted. But his Senate testimony did include some jaw-dropping revelations about the Nixon White House's intelligence-gathering efforts.

Among other things, he revealed that the president's brother, Donald Nixon, was under surveillance by the Secret Service and had a wiretap on his phone.

In 1969, when Mary Jo Kopechne died in a car driven by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), on Chappaquiddick Island, Mass., one of Caulfield's White House assistants was among the first people on the scene to interview witnesses.

Caulfield reportedly ordered tax audits and wiretaps of journalists, and he approached the IRS to quash criminal prosecutions against Nixon's supporters in California. White House adviser Charles Colson once suggested that Caulfield and his subordinates firebomb the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning think tank, but the idea was abandoned.

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